If you are not elite you cannot play.
To compete in the "Game of Throws", you must win or you die - there is no middle ground. And just like "Game of Thrones" itself (that line was very close to something actually uttered by the powerful Queen of Westoros, who schooled a rival on political power).
Think boxing isn't a game of powerful politics? Think again, and look no further than the 147 division, where Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather are embroiled in the equivalent of Barack Obama vs. Vladimir Putin sized beef.
Around 2007, when Mayweather was playing chess with the division while hiding his King, the rest of the 147lb pieces couldn't have been more competitive. Mayweather eventually (and literally) removed himself from the equation altogether through a faked retirement, allowing the division to cool off in his estimation, before returning to competitive fire to defend his mythical crown.
He'll have no such luxury this time.
Firmly entrenched and in the middle of an unprecedented deal with Showtime, 2 out of the 3 fights produced by the network for "Money" has lost it. But alas - there's a caveat. The public had never seen Mayweather in such a competitive fight (as was the case in his 12 round war with Marcos Maidana) that many were reluctant to pay for.
Now, those who did not buy because the didn't want to be subjected to another boring and one-sided 12 round affair, may decide to tune in for his next one. By now, they've either heard Mayweather faced great peril in victory or saw the replay. Many of these same people have been dying to see him get his ass kicked.
In circa 2014 and headed fast into 2015 - they just may get what they want.
Ruslan Provodnikov, Timothy Bradley, Keith Thurman Jr., Juan Manuel Marquez, Shawn Porter, Danny Garcia, Amir Khan and Marcos Maidana lurk in the depths as elite apex predators in the waters of Pacquiao and Mayweather. Notice I don't have Adrien Broner on this list. Besides the fact that he's an asshole and I guess a racist, I don't think he's elite and would beat anybody mentioned.
But this cast - an ensemble cast of incredible action, would be ultra-competitive, and bullsh** aside from HBO and Showtime (who are really beginning to ruin the sport along with their respective promoters), here are a few fights that I would make and how I'd see it.
These fights would lead to the ultimate duels for supremacy. Welcome to "Game of Throws".
Timothy Bradley vs. Danny Garcia
Every elite fighter runs into a style match-up that gives them trouble. Mauricio Herrera was certainly that for "Swift" Garcia. In fact, I think Hererra beat him and that a rematch is in order. Bradley was recently beaten (again- for the damn record) by the comprehensive aggression of Manny Pacquiao, but I don't think this would be a problem with Garcia. I think Bradley's ultra-elite conditioning, work-rate, rougher pedigree and iron will would prevail over 12 tough rounds with Garcia. I like Bradley by 12 round UD.
Keith Thurman Jr. vs. Amir Khan
Why would I want this particular match-up? Because it would really serve as the ultimate proving ground for both of them. Keith has rose to prominence largely off of wins over fighters the general public doesn't know. But I know he's a demon. He showed marked improvement in overall polish in his recent destruction of Julio Diaz, coming off a flawed blitzing of Jesus Soto Karass. For Khan, this is the type of opponent that would give him the ability to soar to pre-Danny Garcia beat-my-ass status with a win. And he would beat Thurman. In his win over Collazo, I saw the payoff in his partnership with Virgil Hunter really manifesting itself. Khan actually thought and controlled space throughout his methodical trouncing of the savvy veteran. I think it would be a more difficult fight with Keith, but he makes mistakes Khan's renewed ring generalship, size and speed could combat. I like Khan by late stoppage.
Marcos Maidana vs. Juan Manuel Marquez
Juan Manuel just might be the 8th wonder of the world. His phenomenal display of dexterity, punch out-put, precision, moxy, etc.. is just amazing. A fight with Marcos Maidana after that performance against Mike Alvarado would be asking a little too much for "Dinimita" at this point, and here's why. 1st of all, "Chino" aint Mike Alvarado. If we're talking maybe 5 years ago Marquez puts an entertaining paint job on Maidana. He still does right now, just not over the duration of this fight. Once Marquez started feeling the weight of Maidana - in addition to the weight of his heavy punches - he'd start to wilt physically and wouldn't match the demand. Maidana would gradually pound him into submission in about 10 rounds.
Manny Pacquiao vs. Ruslan Provodnikov
More than any other fight on this list, this one is the most realistic for 2014 and possibly the next fight for Manny Pacquiao. Provodnikov reminds me of a Russian version Joe Frazier at 147lbs. He's strong as hell, relentless, and rather one-dimensional. He will live and die by his one and only sword - sheer aggression. I've seen every sparring session I could find between him and Manny, and he was very easy for Pacquiao to time and hit - all while he did thevery best he could because he was tyring to make a name for himself in camp as Pacquiao prepared for Bradley. Since then, he's been in nothing but wars, including his maiming of Bradley and brutal assault of Alvarado. He'll be in another one with Chris Algieri in Brooklyn next month, all of which will take a toll. Pacquiao has emerged virtually unscathed over 24 dominating rounds with Brandon Rios and Timothy Bradley, which would make him on even terms as far as freshness with the younger Provodnikov, who I already feel has absorbed massive punishment in his still young career. This fight would be sensational- maybe even the most action packed of Pacquiao's career if you could believe that. Manny would alter Provodnikov's features rather quickly and unleash lethal combinations on him. His footwork and feet in general are still the best in the game, and his uncanny offensive rhythm would doom the destructive Russian. I think Pacquiao would himself absorb enough punishment to effectively finish him as an elite fighter, while delivering the last truly great performance of his career with an 8th round TKO over "Provo".
Floyd Mayweather vs. Shawn Porter
This is a fight that Floyd would be well served to avoid - and believe me he knows that. Not only does Floyd have an aversion for fighting black fighters anyway, he especially doesn't like the ultra-aggressive type as we found out for sure on May 3rd. In the wildly aggressive and almost possesed nature of Shawn Porter, we would see Floyd under even more duress than he was a few weeks ago. The Porter who was on display against Devon Alexander had nerves and a case of stage fright in his coming out party to claim the IBF belt. He's since settled into a compressed fighting machine that is hell bent on damage. He wouldn't allow the technical master that is Mayweather the luxury of any comfort zone in there - and Floyd would be forced to fight like never before. No matter how hard Floyd trained for this fight and the rough house tactics he would expect- I don't think he's strong enough to keep Porter off of him for 12 rounds. I've not seen any evidence of Porter's chin being faulty, or anything in Floyd's recent artillery that suggests he could hurt Shawn. I don't think he can. But I do think Floyd could find a way to outbox him for 7 rounds while taking more of a beating than he did against Maidana. Porter reminds me of a modern version of Jack Dempsey at 147lbs, and I think Floyd would find a way to produce what little is left of "Pretty Boy Floyd" down the stretch. The pick here is Mayweather by SD.
Up Next: Floyd Mayweather, 46-0, Is A Loser